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What Is the Vivitrol Shot?

What Is the Vivitrol Shot? | Just Believe Recovery
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If you or a loved one need help with substance abuse and/or treatment, please contact Just Believe Recovery at (888) 380-0667. Our specialists can assess your individual needs and help you get the treatment that provides the best chance for long-term recovery.

The Vivitrol shot is a once-a-month intramuscular injection of an extended-release formulation of the drug naltrexone. Naltrexone is a prescription medication approved by the FDA to treat alcohol and opioid dependence. This drug is recommended for individuals who are detoxed from alcohol or an opioid and wish to maintain their sobriety. It has also been shown to help with other substance addictions, so it is sometimes prescribed off-label for this purpose.

Vivitrol is not meant to be a standalone cure for alcohol or opioid dependence, though it has proven itself clinically as a powerful ally for those battling addiction. For naltrexone to be truly effective, it should be taken as a component of a customized treatment plan that also includes other therapeutic approaches, like cognitive-behavioral therapy, counseling, and 12-step group support.

How Does the Vivitrol Shot Work?

Naltrexone is in the drug class of mu-opioid receptor antagonists. Biological and psychological processes are regulated via the action of special chemicals in the brain and central nervous system (CNS) called neurotransmitters. Naltrexone works by blocking the action of certain neurotransmitters that bind to opioid receptors.

When an individual takes an opioid or drinks alcohol, the chemicals in these drugs attach to these opioid receptors and alter the individual’s perception of pain. Simultaneously, these drugs stimulate the release of several neurotransmitters, namely dopamine, which produces feelings of comfort, happiness, euphoria, and reward—these are the addicting effects that substance abusers seek.

Again, naltrexone works by blocking the action of opioids and alcohol. If these mu-opioid receptors become blocked, the signaling for the influx of dopamine is halted. Thus, naltrexone works by making the opioid and alcohol feel less good. When these substances lose their sought-after effects, an individual gradually breaks their conditioning and stops psychologically associating the consumption of the substance with pleasure and reward.

This is called extinction, and it is the goal of The Sinclair Method of treating drug dependence. In other words, Vivitrol therapy teaches individuals that the perceived “need” to consume these addicting substances is just an illusion.

Clinical evidence also suggests that naltrexone is both an opioid antagonist and a weak partial opioid agonist. This means that it produces weak opioid effects when it binds to opioid receptors. For this reason, naltrexone can reduce cravings and induce a mild calming sensation as soon as 30 minutes after the first dose. Thus, naltrexone helps individuals resist relapse over both the short and long term.

Side Effects of the Vivitrol Shot

What Is the Vivitrol Shot? | Just Believe Recovery

Although Vivitrol is an excellent tool for helping treat addiction, it can still induce undesirable effects for some people. Many of the side effects of Vivitrol mimic those of opioid withdrawal.

Side effects of naltrexone use may include the following:

  • Agitation
  • Anhedonia
  • Anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Constipation
  • Depressed mood
  • Diarrhea
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Faintness
  • Fatigue
  • Feelings of unreality
  • Headache
  • Lightheadedness
  • Loss of energy
  • Mild dysphoria
  • Muscle or joint pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Poor appetite
  • Profuse sweating

It should be noted that the entire side effect profile for naltrexone is not fully established, and many studies contradict one another in some aspects. It has been debated whether or not naltrexone can create psychoactive effects, such as anxiety, depression, dysphoria, or anhedonia. Effects such as these could be the result of uncontrolled variables or other individual factors.

We Believe Recovery Is Possible For Everyone.
If you or a loved one need help with substance abuse and/or treatment, please contact Just Believe Recovery at (888) 380-0667. Our specialists can assess your individual needs and help you get the treatment that provides the best chance for long-term recovery.

Drawbacks of the Vivitrol Shot

As mentioned above, Vivitrol is not meant for individuals who haven’t been fully detoxed from alcohol or opioids. If an opioid- or alcohol-dependent person takes naltrexone, it will replace the opioid or alcohol at the receptor sites. This action will rapidly precipitate a severe withdrawal, which will be miserable, if not life-threatening.

Another drawback to Vivitrol or naltrexone is that, although it blocks the pleasurable effects of opioids and alcohol, it does not prevent the intoxication or CNS depression they induce. Because of this, an individual who does relapse while on Vivitrol may consume copious amounts of their preferred substance in an attempt to get high, resulting in a potentially fatal overdose.

And finally, as noted above, Vivitrol is an extended-release drug administered once a month. This property is usually beneficial, as it can prevent individuals from skipping doses and guarantee therapeutic adherence to the medication. However, if an individual on Vivitrol is unfortunate enough to sustain a serious injury and require relief from severe pain, the first-line class of pain-relieving drugs in emergency settings, opioids, won’t work.

Vivitrol is contraindicated for and should not be used to treat individuals:

  • Currently taking opioids for pain relief
  • With physical dependence on opioids or alcohol
  • Currently in acute opioid or alcohol withdrawal
  • Who have hypersensitivity to naltrexone, polylactide-co-glycolide (PLG), carboxymethylcellulose, or any other components of the diluent

Recognizing Addiction

What Is the Vivitrol Shot? | Just Believe Recovery

The first step to recovery is admitting there is a problem. You or your loved one may be deep in denial about their addiction. As such, it is crucial to be able to recognize the warning signs of addiction. Understanding how addiction manifests can motivate you or your loved one to take the right steps toward detox and then abstinence, where medications like the Vivitrol shot can help.

Warning signs of drug and alcohol addiction may include the following:

  • Secretive or deceptive behaviors, such as lying
  • Disregard of personal hygiene
  • Changes in sleeping patterns
  • Obsession with obtaining and using a substance
  • Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed
  • New friends or social groups
  • Irrational or unexplained mood changes
  • Paranoid thoughts
  • Increase in behaviors that are dangerous or risky
  • New or worsening legal and financial issues
  • Being unable to quit using a substance despite wanting or attempting to

How to Get Vivitrol

Only certain licensed medical and mental healthcare professionals can prescribe naltrexone or Vivitrol, and each state has different laws regarding who is qualified. Examples of these healthcare professionals include primary care physicians, hospitalists, nurse practitioners, physician’s assistants, psychiatrists, and psychologists.

Although your medical doctor may be able to prescribe Vivitrol, addiction recovery requires the help of experts in the area of addiction. Establishing regular contact with a psychiatrist, psychiatric nurse practitioner, or psychologist at an addiction treatment center or mental health institution is the best way to go about conquering your addiction. No matter who prescribes it, Vivitrol should only be taken under professional supervision.

Get Treatment for Addiction Today

Addiction to opioids, alcohol, or another substance can be a chronic, relapsing, lifelong disease that tears apart the lives of the addict and their loved ones. Recognizing and admitting that you have an addiction is the first and most important step toward a healthy and happy life, and Just Believe Recovery is here to help.

At Just Believe Recovery, we offer state-of-the-art addiction treatment programs in intensive outpatient, partial hospitalization, and inpatient residential formats. Evidence-based, clinically-proven services we employ include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy
  • Medication-assisted treatment
  • Individual counseling
  • Family counseling
  • Group therapy
  • Relapse prevention
  • Mindfulness therapy
  • Art and music therapy
  • Aftercare planning
  • Alumni events

Call us today to learn how we help those who need it most to overcome their addictions and live the happy and fulfilling lives they deserve.

We Believe Recovery Is Possible For Everyone.
If you or a loved one need help with substance abuse and/or treatment, please contact Just Believe Recovery at (888) 380-0667. Our specialists can assess your individual needs and help you get the treatment that provides the best chance for long-term recovery.

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